The sixth edition of the Keep It True festival is a fact, and we very much enjoyed meeting our metal brothers and sisters from all over the world again. There are also some critical points about this sixth edition though. First of all, there’s the bill, which was the weakest ever, in our humble opinion. And we will get into a few other details as well, as the review continues…. But first we hear the alarm bell go off very early in the morning. It’s time to rise and pack our things and pick up Kim and Stefan at the station in Geleen. From there, we will drive on to Aachen and meet our good friend Gerrie Lemmens there. Our friends Martjo and Henk (VORTEX) will also stay at the same hotel in Lauda for the next couple of days, and we will meet them there after a five hour drive or something like that. This will however turn out to be a much longer drive, because of the many traffic jams around Frankfurt and Würzburg. Nonetheless, the spirit is good and everybody is looking forward to seeing their favorite band at the cult festival amongst other festivals. The weather is fine, but if only the festival would have taken place a couple of weeks earlier, we would have been driving through the snow. The sun is shining, two days of metal music are in front of us, all our friends are there, so what else could go wrong? When we finally arrive at our guest house (we are the last arrivals!!!), because of the many delays, it’s already late in the afternoon. After saying ‘hello’ to some of the other metalheads at the guest house, we decided to get something to eat at the local Schnitzelparadise, where we had a good meal. It’s party time, so let the madness begin...
Friday, April 7th, 2006.
Metal Knights - warm up night
Sportshalle, Dittigheim, Germany.
The warm up party was held in Dittingheim again, and just like last years, it’s sold out days before the actual event. We arrive at the sporthall much too late, which is the main reason why we missed the first band DANTESCO from Puerto Rico. We only see the last two songs, which is not enough to judge the band very well. I hear a doomy sound of a band, dressed up like monks or priests. I like what I see and I can definitely tell you it’s a pity, that we missed this show. Better luck next time, but I know for sure, that DANTESCO is a name to remember. The first problems occurred during the last few minutes of DANTESCO, when Rita found out that her camera was as dead as a doornail.
Whatever she tried, it just refused everything that it’s supposed to do for a camera with that kind of a price card attached to it. Even when changing the batteries one more time, it just didn’t show any progress at all. A real bummer indeed and would that mean we would have no pictures of this edition of Keep It True? That’s where our good relationship with Gerrie Lemmens is a gift from heaven. We agreed, that we could use some of his pictures to go with this review. So if you take a special good look at the beautiful pictures used here, that would be really nice. They were all made by our good friend Gerrie Lemmens, sometimes under the most difficult circumstances. And before we continue with the next band, we’d like to express our sincere thanks to Gerrie for making this all possible. All the blood, sweat and thousands of tears, he had to go through this festival to make it all possible. Sometimes he had to fight for his life to get on the right spot. The things you have to do to get some great pictures! He is just too kind for us. So all the pictures in this review were taken by Gerrie Lemmens from Voerendaal. Thank you very much for this, Gerrie - we owe you one!! Back to the festival now...
SEVEN WITCHES are on tour with DEMON, and both bands will play here tonight at the evening, they called “Metal Knights”. Jack Frost is a real riff monster, whose music could be compared a bit to ANNIHILATOR. Strong riffs, great solos and a lot of space for melody, too. The main reason why I wanted to see the band however is not only Mr. Frost. But the singer that he brought with him on stage, is the man that I was looking forward to seeing again. Alan Tecchio, who used to sing with HADES, WATCHTOWER, NON FICTION and POWER, is like a true hero to me. A lot of people will know already, that I am a real NWOBHM and US Metal addict, and so it’s quite exciting for me to see an old legend pop up at a show like this. And I must say, that Alan still sings great. He can reach notes that are unreachable for many other singers and he has a great attitude. Maybe it’s a bit hard to explain, why I like the guy’s singing so much, but only true metal believers will understand this, I guess. He is a living myth, and he has this unbeatable power, that a good singer needs. And he showed us again, that he is capable of singing SEVEN WITCHES songs, like “Metal Messiah”, “Exile To Infinity Of War” and “Metal Tyrants” as well as the true metal classic “Victim Of Changes” by JUDAS PRIEST. When SEVEN WITCHES leaves the stage, the boring part of the evening begins.
DRIFTER were always like a second rate band to me. The only reason why this band ever got any name in the scene was the fact, that Phil Campbell of MOTÖRHEAD played a solo on one of their albums. Otherwise, nobody would have ever known about this band from Switzerland, I think. Their show was quite okay, but nothing really special. Highlight for me is the fact, that they played the ROSE TATTOO cover “We Can’t Be Beaten”. But believe me, they will be beaten later on that same evening, with a knock out in the very first round. First we have to wrestle ourselves through another hour of boredom. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying, that the bands I didn’t like, didn’t get any positive response. But they just didn’t appeal to me as much as they did to the other people in the audience. ASSASSIN didn’t either. Probably, they played a great show for the average visitor of this festival, but again this was total boredom to me. I believe, I recognized two songs (“Assassin” and “Baka”) but I’m not just interested in their second rate speed metal riffs. Which is blasphemous to say of course in Germany, but that’s why this review is based upon my own opinion. Stay tuned, it will get worse later on!
Anyway, one of the main reasons why we actually bought tickets for this warm up show was, that DEMON would make an appearance here, kicking off their April headlining tour. We hoped and prayed, that they would bring their old semi-horror show, including crucifixes, tombstones and other spooky elements. None of this all happened though. Nonetheless, when the band opened with “Night Of The Demon”, I realised, that this was the stuff I had been waiting for. This band was definitely the reason, we drove 550 kilometers to the middle of f*cking nowhere! And DEMON pleased their fans with a great set that mainly consisted of old material like “The Plague”, “Nightmare”, “Standing On The Edge Of The World”, “Hurricane”, “Life On The Wire” and “Don’t Break The Circle”, where the fans sang out the words real loudly. They closed the show with “One Helluva Night”. And finally this night became one helluva night, mainly because of DEMON. What a brilliant show!! It was even better than their show at Ragnarock last year with WITCHFYNDE and DEATH SS. And it was there, I realized how good a singer like Dave Hill actually is. His singing, his ‘acting’ and especially his face expressions, that can tell you more than a thousand words. This man is really a genius, and I am really glad, that the band is still around after so many years. However, I do hope, that I will be able to see them with their old show and some show effects next time. It would make my DEMON experience complete. When the local excorsist made the DEMON disappear, it was time to rush back to the hotel to get a short nights sleep and prepare ourselves for the main festival in Lauda.
Saturday, April 8th, 2006.
KEEP IT TRUE VI: METAL SOLDIERS
Tauberfrankenhall, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany
Even after only a few hours of sleep, we were ready to rock again. It keeps you going, no matter how tired you are. If you hear metal music, talk to your friends and get the chance to spend a bit of money on the metal market, you won’t hear us complain. After a good breakfast, we decided to leave early to the hall, while it wasn’t that crowded yet. We had also ordered a few items from a couple of dealers at the metal market, and we wanted to collect everything before the first band would start playing. So off we went and then all of a sudden we were a couple of kilograms lighter. And our car was a couple of kilograms heavier. We spend a lot of money on the metal market, and our neighbours probably won’t like it, but hey, you only live once.
Before I will start talking about the festival, there are a few things on my mind, I would like to say in general about this sixth edition of Keep It True.
First of all, there is the fact that photographers are only allowed now to take pictures during the first three songs. Which is a load of rubbish. This is quite normal, I hear you say. And yes, it is, if you’re going to a sold out gig of KISS, JUDAS PRIEST or IRON MAIDEN in 2006. This is supposed to be an underground festival, where most of the bands play one gig and then disappear from the earth for the rest of their lives. Most gigs are one of a kind. Sometimes, like in the case of AXEHAMMER, you finally get the chance to see this particular band live after so many years, and you can only take memories with you from the first ten minutes of this legendary event, because you were only allowed to shoot pictures of the first three songs. Please stop this bullshitting next time. Second thing that was so much different from the previous festivals connects to this jointlessly. The organisation had closed down the backstage area for the press people. In previous years you were allowed to go backstage, chat with the band members, take some pictures, etc.etc. Now you were not able to do this anymore, so it was not possible to get in touch with any of the band members, unless they came into the hall to chat with their fans and socialize. And then you had to be real lucky to get in touch with them, if there wasn’t another band playing at the time, otherwise it was almost impossible to have a normal conversation with each other. This whole situation is one of the main reasons, why we will possibly have no interviews planned with any of the bands at this 6th edition of K.I.T, while we did some great interviews in the past with for example IGNITOR and RAVEN, who played at last year’s Keep It True festival. Again if we’re talking about huge names like MAIDEN or PRIEST, it’s quite understandable these precautions have to be taken, but these ‘underground’ bands are looking forward to playing for a large crowd once in their whole career maybe. They come to Europe for the very first time, and they’re dying to hang out with their fans and promote their music. Impossible. Another change, that I didn’t like at all. Also there was the awful sound of the band playing at this edition. I really don’t know what exactly they changed, but the sound was HORRIBLE, for almost all the bands. It was far too loud, and it constantly resounded, so you could almost hear the same song twice, if you listened really carefully. Someone must have been sleeping, or just not doing his job well. Hard Rock and Heavy Metal must be played at a loud volume at all times, I agree with that, but not at all costs. Turning the volume knob to the max is just not doing the trick. And sometimes the sound was really awful, especially by the louder bands like DARKNESS and PARADOX. Last thing, that I definitely need to mention here is maybe a bit more personal, but I know already that my wife and my good friend Gerrie both agree with me on this, so I am going to mention this last reason here as well. The bill, the line up of the festival. In my opinion, the organisation have really overlooked the name of the festival. I am not judging too hard here. The festival is called Keep It True, but if they would have called it Keep It Thrash, it would have been much closer to reality than Keep It True this time. ASSASSIN, DARKNESS, PARADOX - any true metal fan will probably have nothing at all with these names. In previous years, we saw so many awesome bands playing here, like RAVEN, HALLOWEEN, THUNDER RIDER, JAGUAR, WITCHFYNDE, DEADLY BLESSING, JAG PANZER, IGNITOR and so on (und so weiter, for our German friends!). But so many thrash, speed metal bands on the bill was a bit too much for me. And it lasted quite some time before we actually got what we came for: TRUE F*CKING METAL. Please, watch the name of the festival closely and ask yourself twice or more times, if a band is true enough to be here. We came here to see bands like AXEHAMMER, which is in fact all that we wanted to see. Of course it was cool to see bands like GRIM REAPER, DEMON, EXCITER and RIOT, but we’ve seen these names several times before already, and under better circumstances, too. But I really don’t care for those thrash maniacs or speed devils, that you can see at so many other festivals in the land (or even in our own country). This festival is so interesting, because of the many cult names we’ve seen here, and this edition was definitely the least edition in that respect. It looks like we’re being very negative here, but despite all this, there are so many more reasons why we wouldn’t miss this event. We could do with more ‘true metal heroes’ and less thrash though.
But let’s go back to the music again, because a great new Dutch band would open the main festival this afternoon. Their show at the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival was already a good warm up for us, and we knew they would surprise many visitors here in a very positive way. POWERVICE convinced us again with their solid live show. It’s a shame, they didn’t play the BLACK SABBATH cover “Die Young”, that would have completed the set. Instead, they decided to play a set full of originals, like “One By One”, “Into The Lights” “Nightstalker” and “Behold The Hand Of Glory”. Inbetween these songs, we heard some longer instrumental parts, too. In general, I think they made a great impression on the German crowd. Although I must admit that I liked their show in Hoorn a little bit better. I strongly believe, that POWERVICE is ready to become a big name in the Dutch metal scene, if they continue playing shows like this. What a great opener!
WOTAN was on next. This Italian power metal band could be compared to MANOWAR in many ways. I think, they may have heard this before. And if you listen to their debut CD “Carmina Barbarica”, you will possibly come to the same conclusion. But since this debut CD, the band has grown a lot in my opinion. Epic metal to the max and highlights such as “Lord Of The Wind”, which was definitely the crowd pleaser this afternoon, and furthermore “Under The Sign Of Odin’s Raven” and “Ithaca”, dedicated to all their Greek fans. But the best part for me was, when Ross The Boss entered the stage to play “Revelation” with the band. “Epos” will be on their next CD, and it will carry this name with pride, I think. What do I need to say about DARKNESS? I believe in a thing called love…..? I even wished, that THE DARKNESS would have taken over their place. The band from Essen jumped on the bandwagon of the Bay Area scene, which collapsed in the early eighties, but they never got very far. Now they were welcomed by the crowd, as if they were TESTAMENT or EXODUS themselves. The riffs, that I heard sounded rather tight, but DARKNESS was for me reason enough to visit the metal market again. SILVER FIST was a good reason to return to the front of the stage. And the main reason for this was singer Silverio ‘Silver’ Solorzano, and the fact, that the band had promised to play a special MURO set. MURO is one of the cult metal bands from Spain, next to BARON ROJO and OBUS. The band mixed SILVER FIST and MURO songs in one set. And I must say, that the SILVER FIST material sounded great, too. The new SILVER FIST album is being released, while I write this review. The band easily knew how to impress me and a very big part of the crowd. Their old school heavy metal is perfect for this ocassion, and songs like “Traidor”, “Telon De Acero” and “Solo En La Oscuridad” sounded like we were thrown back into the eighties. That’s the way, we’d like to hear it! “Mirada Asesina” is the highlight of their set, according to the reactions of the audience. Many people will agree with me, that this was one of the big surprises this afternoon, and I am glad that I’ve tasted a little bit of the magic, that once was called MURO.
AXEHAMMER was the main reason why we went to this festival in the first place. I hoped, that they could live up to the high expectations I had about this gig. And to give you the answer right away, they did. I was rather surprised to see Horacio Colmares on bass this afternoon. We read that he had left the band recently, but we heard from him that they’d asked him to play in Germany. And I am glad he did, because finally we had the chance to meet him face to face, after the many emails we had with this legendary musician from NEW EDEN and STEEL PROPHET. From opener “Dancing With Demons” on, it all sounded like magic to me. “Princess”, “The Power”, “Stand Up And Fight”, “Rise Up” “Back For Vengeance”, “Stand And Deliver”, “Windrider” and set closer “Axehammer”, they all sounded like a dream come true. This was the stuff that I wanted to see and hear. Bill Ramp didn’t move or act too much like a real heavy metal singer ought to do, but his voice sounded brilliant. Topped with some maniacal laughs, he sounded very fresh indeed. Jerry Watt sounded like two guitarplayers instead of one – what a marvellous guitarist! A fantastic set and for me, they could have played another hour or so. Okay, there were some problems with their sound at the beginning of their set, but this won’t change my opinion, that AXEHAMMER were the definite winners of this whole festival.
I also expected a lot from GRIM REAPER, ever since the moment that I read they were coming to play at K.I.T. But after a short while the first rumours appeared, that it would only be Steve Grimmett playing here, without his tandem mate Nick Bowcott. For me GRIM REAPER is the magic between the strong powerful voice of Steve Grimmett, next to the fabulous guitarwork of Nick Bowcott. Steve Grimmett is the face of the band and I love the man for his brilliant work with MEDUSA and LIONSHEART, and I could only hope for a good revenge of his rather disappointing appearance at Wacken in 2000. I loved the show, and I am sure that a lot of fans will agree with me this show was worthy to go under the monnicker of GRIM REAPER, instead of Steve Grimmett playing GRIM REAPER. A wonderful collection of old material only, passed by in the forty-five minutes set of these NWOBHM heroes. They opened with “Rock You To Hell” and from this magic moment on, it’s a fact that this gig will stay in your memory for a long time. “Now Or Never”, “Lust For Freedom”, “Wrath Of The Ripper”, “Rock Me Till I Die”, “Fear No Evil”, “Dead On Arrival”, “A Matter Of Time”, “Waysted Love” and of course “See You In Hell”completed the magic of the reaper set. Perhaps it would have been nice to see someone appear as The Grim Reaper during their show. It would look great as a show element, but I guess this also didn’t happen during their legendary tour with HELLOWEEN and ARMOURED SAINT in 1987 (‘Hell On Wheels’ Tour). Anyway, a brilliant forty-five minutes, which ended up in a queue for our evening dinner. We chose this time, because I’d already seen PARADOX play at the Dynamo Open Air festival in 1988, and then they already didn’t appeal to me. For a short moment I hoped to see the American PARADOXX here, but this was wishful thinking. I watched PARADOX from the tribune, while eating my chips. And their sound was intolerable loud and blurred, that I decided to wait outside until this cacophony of drilling bass sounds and other monotonous outings of noise were over. In the eighteen years inbetween Dynamo and Keep It True, things haven't changed much for them, which says it all. Even their rendition of the JUDAS PRIEST classic “Hell Bent For Leather” won’t change my opinion about PARADOX.
SOLITUDE AETURNUS is a great band, and a good warm up for the three headliners of tonight. Besides, it has also become a slight tradition of putting a more doomy band on the bill as well. After COUNT RAVEN in 2005, SOLITUDE AETURNUS also knows to play traditional, melodic, doom metal like no one else does. The slow dragging sound of these Texas doomers warmed up the crowd real nicely. Although you can also argue about the fact, if this was an appropiate band to play here or not, I had less difficulties with this choice than with the thrashy bands on the bill.
Ross The Boss was on next, and we were really looking forward to this set. Together with the MANOWAR tribute band MEN OF WAR, he hit the stage to present us a set of early MANOWAR songs. To be honest with you, I like the old MANOWAR material more than the newer songs by these warriors of true metal, so I was very anxious to see and hear this show. I have mixed feelings about it all now. The backing band was okay, but of course you miss a lot when you lack the presence of the real animals Joey De Mayo, Eric Adams and Scott Columbus on stage. To my big surprise they used the original introduction tape from the old MANOWAR shows, or at least it sounded exactly the same as the original tape. What I do remember from MANOWAR with Ross The Boss was, that their shows (and I believe I’ve seen two or three) were not really the best. Their sound wasn’t always too clear. Tonz of bass, in which the guitars drowned every now and then. And the long speeches inbetween were sometimes good for the spirit, but most of the time they were too long for the European fans. The fact, that we would hear a lot of old stuff tonight, already pleased me very much. The set list was not perfect, but allright. Of course they opened with “Manowar”, and continued with true classics like “Gloves Of Metal”, “Thor (The Powerhead)”, “Secret Of Steel”, “Death Tone”, “Shellshock”, “Mountains”, “Army Of The Immortals”, “Kill With Power”, “Bridge Of Death”, “Hail To England” (yes!) and of course “Battle Hymns” as set closer. “Sign Of The Hammer”, “Blood Of My Enemies”, “Metal Daze” and the ultimate MANOWAR song of all time “Dark Avenger” were left out, which was a crying shame. I also remember, that back in those days MANOWAR used to call someone on stage to play guitar with the band during “All Men Play On Ten”. Maybe this would have been a nice thing to do here as well. Or they could have used the bear skins as outfit for the MEN OF WAR members. This would have made the show so much more exciting. Now it was nice, but quite average. Ross The Boss proved, that he can still play guitar really well and we also noticed, that he’d just released a new album together with BLUE OYSTER CULT member Albert Bouchard, under the name of BRAIN SURGEONS. Check it out, if you can!
EXCITER always knows to convince me of their strength. And this evening was no exception to the rule. I really don’t know, what it is with this band…. When John Ricci starts to riff like a madman, nothing can hold him back no more. Their set consists of a good mix between the old and new songs. And although it would have been nice, when they would have played my personal faves like “World War III”, “Under Attack” or “Cry Of The Banshee”, I was more than pleased with great versions of “The Dark Command”, “Agressor”, “Violator”, “Rain Of Terror”, “Heavy Metal Maniac”, “Stand Up And Fight”, “Victims Of Sacrifice”, “Pounding Metal”, “Long Live The Loud”, “Blackwitch”, “Rising Of The Dead”, “Evil Omen”, “Violence And Force” and even a couple of brand new songs. What more can you ask for? Jacques Belanger’s voice sounded crystal clear and John Ricci is a real monster on guitar. Sure, it would have been nice seeing Dan Beehler behind the drums again, like in Kaatsheuvel many, many years ago. Everybody hopes this will happen one day, but this request would harm the perfect job done by Rick Charron, who plays like he is Animal himself. I still have parts of his drumsticks all over my body, and I suggest to cage this beast, who roars from deep inside. Yeah, EXCITER kicked everybody’s ass and they warmed up the crowd nicely for the headliners of tonight, RIOT. Unfortunately, a lot of people already left the hall. Like RIOT was some kind of afterparty show, only for the die hard metalheads!?
I really didn’t know what to expect. Mike Dimeo was replaced by Mike Tirelli (MESSIAH’S KISS, POWER, JACK STARR), and the drummer of tonight was Frank Gilchriest from VIRGIN STEELE. RIOT never did have any luck with their vocalists. Rhett Forrester died, Guy Speranza died, but Mike Tirelli was a good replacement for both. Guitarist Mark Reale is a real perfectionist, and judging by the wild movements he made towards his roadie, he was not too pleased with the sound of tonight. For a moment I thought he would leave, if things wouldn’t get any better. But what a great set they played! Again they could have opted for songs like “Loanshark”, “Fire Down Under” or “Restless Breed”, but I respect their choices to play a good mix of almost all albums they’ve made in their long lasting career. And when they opened their set with “Narita”, all the old rockers (like me) started to move and plug in their air guitar. If this wasn’t the ultimate flashback (could be a nice title for a RIOT song!) to the eighties! “Tokyo Rose” was played for a Japanese fan, who came over to see the show (respect!) and of course we could also enjoy classics like “Rock City”, “Hard Loving Man”, a long version of “Road Racin’” with many solo spots, the DEEP PURPLE cover “Burn”, “Angel Eyes”, Thundersteel”, “Warrior”, “Swords & Tequila”, it was all there. A great band to end the sixth edition of Keep It True. Despite all the bad remarks I made, I still think this festival was a huge success. At the end of this year, there is only a small festival at the Sportshall in Dittingheim with MESSENGER, ARCTIC FLAME, WARHAMMER, WOLF, ONSLAUGHT, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM and HEIR APPARENT. Because the headliners are only interesting to us, we decide to skip this 7th edition of this festival, hoping that the big edition in April of 2007 will be interesting and true enough to visit again. Our sincere thanks go out to Ollie and Tarek for this nice flashback to our youth and to Kim and Stefan for being our passengers again. Without you, this journey would have lasted so much longer. Furthermore we’d like to mention Martjo and Henk, our good friends from VORTEX, and of course a BIG thanks to Gerrie Lemmens for the usual good time and fun we had with him. See ya next time!
*Written by: Toine van Poorten/May 2006
*Photos copyright by: Gerrie Lemmens, NL.